Franklin County is set to pay $6.5 million to settle a federal wrongful death lawsuit in the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy by a county sheriff's deputy during a scuffle outside a juvenile courtroom in 2018.
The payment — perhaps the largest in county history, according to the family's lawyer — is scheduled for a vote by the three-member Board of County Commissioners on Monday, according to a meeting agenda.
The case involves the shooting death of Joseph "Joey" Haynes, who was fatally wounded during a confrontation with Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Scarborough on Jan. 17, 2018, outside county Juvenile Court on the fifth floor of the courthouse.
Haynes was at county Juvenile Court to answer to two cases involving firearms. Family members became upset when a hearing ended with a decision that Haynes must continue wearing an ankle monitor and be on house arrest, according to the complaint the boy's estate filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus.
"Deputy Scarborough needlessly initiated a physical confrontation with Joey’s mom by grabbing her arm, twisting it behind her back, and pushing her face-first against the wall," the complaint alleged. That prompted the 140-pound boy to intervene on behalf of his mother, pulling on the deputy's shoulder, the suit said.
The lawsuit contends the deputy flipped the boy onto his back on the floor and placed himself on top of him, then shot him in the chest as the boy's mother, grandmother, 7-year-old brother and teenage girlfriend, watched.
Everyone inside the courthouse should have been previously screened for firearms or knives before entering, so there should have been no reasonable concern about the boy potentially being armed, the lawsuit stated.
Daniel Mordarski, the attorney representing the boy's estate, said he believes this to be perhaps the largest court settlement in Franklin County history. "I don't know that I've seen a larger one that," he said. Of the total, $3.68 million, or almost 57%, is paid to Mordaski's office, but he says he then must pass part of that amount through to the estate, while retaining 35% of the total settlement, or almost $2.28 million, in attorney fees.
The county filed a response disputing much of the plaintiff's version of events but affirmed the mother became angry and that the boy assaulted the deputy. The Dispatch reported that Scarborough told investigators he was dazed after being punched, and Haynes had jumped on his back. When they fell to the floor, Scarborough thought Haynes might get control of his firearm and stun gun.
According to several witnesses, including the teen's grandmother, Haynes jumped on the deputy's back. The boy's attorney at the hearing told investigators the boy was also punching the deputy. Some told investigators they believed the deputy may have misinterpreted people jumping in to help him as family members attacking him.
A Franklin County grand jury in September 2018 reviewed the case and determined no criminal charges would be filed against Scarborough. He returned to courthouse security duty in November 2018.
The civil lawsuit in federal court had been set for a jury trial last June, but that was postponed as the two sides instead worked on the settlement, court records show.
"With this settlement, the county is moving forward from a difficult situation in the best way that we can," Franklin County Commissioners spokesperson Tyler Lowry said in an email Friday. "We want to first acknowledge the tragedy of the Haynes family’s loss, and also the challenge that deputies face in providing security for the courthouse complex each day.
"This litigation started five years ago, and this settlement ends all the legal claims brought against the county. The settlement is entered into on the advice of the county’s legal counsel to provide closure to our residents and to protect their tax dollars from the uncertainties of a civil trial."
The county, which admits no liability in the settlement, also spent an unspecified amount of money on outside legal counsel defending the case and ultimately negotiating a settlement. That amount wasn't immediately available Friday.
On top of the $6.5 million settlement, the commissioners also will be asked Monday to settle another 2018 federal lawsuit filed by a couple who lived in Sharon Township, just north of Graceland Shopping Center, along the Olentangy River, for the county not taking action against residents making illegal sewage discharges into the stormwater sewers from private septic systems. The county will pay another $630,000 for to settle that suit, of which over 75% will go to attorney fees.
It couldn't immediately be determined Friday if the settlement included stopping the sewage discharges, although it references a consent order of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
(Editor's note: This story clarifies that part of the almost $3.68 million the county will pay directly to attorneys in the case isn't all retained as their fee, according to Mordarski.)
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Franklin County deputy shooting of teen to lead to $6.5M settlement